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Archive for September, 2009

We recently received an advanced copy of the new Ken Burns film, The National Parks – America’s Best Idea, which begins airing on PBS starting Sunday, September 27.  You can see images from the FHS Archives in the first three episodes and our name in the credits.  (By the way, if you can’t get to your TV when those air, the PBS website will be streaming the video of each episode after it airs.)

As we watched here at the Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters for our images to appear in the film, we got to talking about other films in which our moving footage and still images have appeared.  Of course, tops on the list is The Greatest Good: A Forest Service Centennial Film.  (Normally, I’d say, Buy the book – don’t wait for the movie. But in this case, I say, Buy them both and now!)  Footage from the two films we’ve produced, Up in Flames and Timber on the Move, has appeared in a number of documentaries and television shows over the years.  Our images have appeared in films as varied as Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues to Fungi: Pennsylvania’s Hidden Treasures.  Below the photos that we think appear in The National Parks is a partial list of video projects with images or footage from our archive.

The other thing we discussed is how FHS expertise has been used in productions.  Sometimes it’s in a very hands-on manner, as with The Greatest Good.  That was fun because two of us were involved in reviewing the script and rough cuts of the film, and we were listed individually by name in the final credits.  Other times, we’ve been asked to do research that finds its way into scripts.  The latter is true for an upcoming History Channel show, America: the Story of US.  You can see the results of that in the spring.

Here are just a few of our images to look for in the Ken Burns film.

Colorado

FHS3521

Montana

Sheep grazing

And here’s a list of some of the other productions in which our archival material has appeared:

- On PBS, from the American Masters series – Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues.  Hank briefly worked as a logger.

- Firestorm: The Fire Suppression Paradox, follows a firecrew from Ontario who joined with firefighters from the U.S. and other jurisdictions to fight a fire in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana, in the summer of 2000.

- Chief Mountain Hotshots: Firefighters of the Blackfeet Nation tells the history of one of the most respected Hotshot crews in the country.

- The Forest Where We Live – The Series (Louisiana Public Broadcasting)

- The Ultimate 10 Dangerous Jobs (“Ultimate 10″ series on TLC) – has footage of smokejumping from Up in Flames.

- Fungi: Pennsylvania’s Hidden Treasures is an award-winning full-length documentary produced by the State of Pennsylvania’s DCNR’s Wild Resource Conservation Program and Commonwealth Media.

- The Lord God Bird documentary film is about the ivory-billed woodpecker.

- The History Channel Toolbox Series – the episode on Mechanic’s Tools and Chainsaws.

- The History Channel series Modern Marvels – “Logging Technology” episode has footage from Timber on the Move.

- And for the upcoming 12-hour series on the History Channel, America: The Story of US, we conducted research and provided background material on 19th-century log drives in the upper Midwest.

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In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19, we here at Peeling Back the Barrrrk bring you the dramatic tale “Log Pirates of Puget Sound.” Although “Log Pirates” is an article by Stewart H. Holbrook that appeared in the January 1937 issue of American Forests, it reads like a pulp thriller/film noir from the 1940s, complete with a put-upon hero more married to his job than to his first wife, criminals with names like “High Pockets” and “Dark Moon,” cops on the take, stakeouts and undercover disguises, and keen detective work with a lot of gumshoeing. The film version would have starred Humphrey Bogart as William E. Craw, the battle-hardened former police captain-turned-log patrolman who suffered neither love nor corrupt loggers lightly.

Log Pirates of Puget Sound

This is how we envision the film having been cast if it were produced by Warner Bros. back in the late 1930s. If written as a swashbuckler, Robin Hood-type film, Errol Flynn would have made a great log pirate, stealing logs from villainous lumbermen along with the heart of a mill owner's daughter played by Olivia de Havilland.

What a great subject for a noir film this would be. Log theft was a major problem in the 1920s in the Tacoma, Washington, area. The high demand for lumber both in the U.S. and overseas had driven up prices, making piracy quite profitable and leading to the organization of gangs. The timber industry turned to the State of Washington for help. The legislature passed a law but did little else.  Desperate, seven timber companies came together to form the State Log Patrol in February 1928. They hired Craw, an ex-Marine with combat experience. He quickly assembled a crack squad of men and boats to start patrolling the waters and bust up the crime rings. Holbrook’s discussion of the use and abuse of log brands to identify ownership of logs is fascinating. The story of how Craw busted “High Pockets” Peterson because the ex-cop just happened to know about the properties of iron is straight out of Sherlock Holmes or, today, CSI. When the price of lumber dropped during the Great Depression, Craw had little crime solving to do and tried to start his own electronics shop to put food on the table for his second wife and children. Craw, his wife, and one of his two daughters were killed by a drunken reveler on July 4th, 1941, just a few months before lumber prices shot back up due to America’s entry into World War II and put the Log Patrol back in business.

Incidentally, Stewart Holbrook’s article was an excerpt from his book, “Holy Old Macinaw!”, which he brought up to date for the magazine. The article is a much better read. Once you’ve read “Log Pirates,” feel free to dig in a little deeper to the story over at the Washington State archives’ “History Link” website. Meanwhile, my piratical friend, hoist a tankard of grog to the memory of Cap’n Craw. Even a pirate must respect a lawman who can beat them at their own game.

Our thanks to American Forests for their permission to post this article!

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